How Teen Climate Activist Greta Thunberg Is Actually Changing The World

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“We are, right now, in the beginning of a climate and ecological crisis, and we need to call it what it is: an emergency.”

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It was in the middle of a concert I attended over a week ago when I realized that one person could change the world.

As thousands of us stood at the Mall of Asia Arena, cheering for our favorite band to play the next song, Matty Healy, the lead of The 1975, turned his back on the crowd. The attention shifted to the gigantic screen before us, and for five minutes, the spotlight was on something so much bigger.

The words of Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, echoed through the jampacked concert arena: We  are facing a disaster of unspoken sufferings for enormous amounts of people, and now is not the time for speaking politely or focusing on what we can or cannot say. Now is the time to speak clearly.”

The crowd roared, and by the end of the concert, what usually would be a room full of empty water bottles and plastic wrappers turned into an impressive squeaky-clean venue.

Even if Greta wasn’t physically there, her impact resonated among people, the youth especially.

This isn’t the first time we’re learning about climate change. From elementary to high school, science teachers have tackled the topic and how the environment is drastically suffering each year. Yet, when we think of this ecological crisis, we don’t immediately categorize it as an emergency, but rather a looming disaster just waiting to happen when humanity ceases to exist.

However, climate change is happening right now—and we mean right this second while you are reading this. It’s not like the movies where you just wake up one day with a big storm that will wipe out humanity–No. It’s every day that you choose to ignore climate change that drives the planet to an inevitable downward slope.

Greta Thunberg, who has become the face of Youth Climate Activism, is making worldwide headlines for her fight against climate change and she has two words for you: Wake up.

It all started a year ago, when Greta Thunberg, a Swedish school student, sat in front of the Swedish parliament building with her hand-painted “Skolstrejk för klimatet” (School Strike for Climate) sign that she kickstarted a global movement.

Within months of beginning her strike, Greta had already spoken at the U.N.’s climate-change conference in Poland and the World Economic Forum’s orgy of plutocratic comity at Davos among others.

“I don’t want you to be hopeful, I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day and then I want you to act,” said Greta to the world leaders.

Every day, Greta’s travels are documented and heavily criticized in newspapers and news channels. She would travel through a boat from one continent to the other, spending two weeks in the sea just to avoid riding a plane with greater greenhouse gas emissions.

It’s sort of a slap in the face, the thought that a young girl from Sweden, who has just been politically awakened by the global existential crisis, would be the one to school the world’s most powerful body.

At such a young age, Greta has bought more awareness and political action on climate change in such a little amount of time.

Last Friday, nearly a year since Greta’s conquest for climate action, young people on every continent skipped their school and their jobs to march the streets for a day to demand change. Reported to be the largest Global climate strike in history, nearly four million participants protested all over the world.

While it’s a shame that these young people feel like they have no choice but to protest in the streets, it’s ingrained in our hearts and minds to be the generation to rebel. We were taught that speaking up and choosing not to stay indifferent is the key to making a significant change. Yet it’s inspiring at best to see so many of the younger generation demand for a better world, condemning the greed of our current systems, and resisting to give up the only planet we will ever have. If she can actively do it, what excuse are we left to grasp? Nothing.

One year and one month apart (Photo from @nattyover on Twitter)

So, taking a cue from Greta Thunberg, it’s time we wake up and act now.